Ministers' Deputies / Rapporteur Groups
Rapporteur Group on Legal Co-operation
GR-J(2006)CB6 20 November 20061
Meeting of 14 November 2006
1. The Rapporteur Group on Legal Co-operation (GR-J) met on 14 November 2006, with Mr Bruno GAIN, Permanent Representative of France, in the Chair. The Group adopted the agenda, as contained in the letter convening the meeting (GR-J(2006)OJ6 revised).
21/06 Democratic standards in electoral matters – Follow-up – 116th Session of the Committee of Ministers (decision 967/1.7)
(GR-J(2006)14, DD(2006)512, DD(2006)635, GR-J(2006)18)
2. The Chairman introduced the item referring to the documents distributed before its previous meeting as well as to document DD(2006)635 that he received the day before the present meeting and that had been distributed to delegations. He referred to the terms of reference given to the Group by the Deputies which was to consider possible further steps to promote democratic standards in electoral matters.
3. The representative of the delegation having distributed document DD(2006)635, explained that it had tried to make an overview of the Council of Europe’s achievements in the electoral field. He considered that this overview indicated both a political will to proceed with the elaboration of binding legal standards on democratic elections and that the elaboration of such an instrument would be feasible. The problem identified was that there was no intergovernmental structure which could be considered as competent in this field. In general, discussions in this field had been rather guided by political considerations than by input from experts. He referred to the final paragraph of the document, “Possible ways forward”, which contained a number of proposals on how to handle this issue. He underlined that the monitoring of elections carried out by the OSCE/ODIHR was not based on clear legal criteria; it was not transparent, not intergovernmental and the results varied depending on which country was being assessed.
4. A large number of delegations indicated that they could not agree with the proposal to initiate work on a binding instrument in the field of electoral standards. They underlined the importance of democratic elections and their awareness of the fact that not all elections were carried out in an appropriate manner. The Code of Good Practice in Electoral Matters elaborated by the Venice Commission contained all the elements, however, that were necessary for the organisation and holding of fair and democratic elections. A binding instrument was not necessary for this purpose, such an instrument would with all likelihood be too complicated to be applied in practice as it would have to take account of the very different legislation in the field existing in Europe. There was also a risk that it would just reflect the lowest common denominator, which might even be a step back as compared to the present situation. The OSCE/ODIHR had a very comprehensive set of commitments on holding democratic elections. It was an intergovernmental structure that was very competent and responsible in this field. A number of countries had difficulties in meeting these commitments. Rather than developing a separate Council of Europe set of binding norms, emphasis should be put on implementing existing standards.
5. The Secretariat (Mr Buquicchio) explained that no overall assessment had been made of the implementation of the Code of Good Practice in Electoral Matters, but that when a country asked for assistance with the elaboration of electoral standards, the principles contained in the Code were taken into account. The Venice Commission made regular reference to the Code in this context and also in its cooperation with ODIHR for example. He further referred to the necessity of a clear political will for the elaboration of a Convention to be successful, even if it was also technically possible without it.
6. The Chairman concluded that (1) the great majority of delegations had indicated that a number of instruments already existed in the field of electoral standards, in particular the Code of Good Practice in Electoral Matters elaborated by the Venice Commission, which was a reference document in this area. They considered that it would be premature to engage in the negotiation of a binding instrument; (2) the majority of delegations considered that presently the emphasis should be on the implementation of existing instrument, such as the Code of Good Practice, which reflected the common European heritage in this field; (3) the Group took note of the information provided by one delegation on the issue of existing instruments; and (4) the Group would revert to this issue at a later meeting on the basis of an evaluation of the impact of the Code of Good Practice in Electoral Matters. This evaluation need not be made urgently, nor in the nearest future.
25/06 Committee of Experts on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (PC-ES) – Extension of the terms of reference to 30 June 2007
7. The Group noted that the work of the PC-ES was progressing well and agreed on the prolongation of its terms of reference until 30 June 2007. It also agreed to transmit the item to the Deputies for the adoption of the relevant decision at their 981st meeting (29 November 2006). As the item related to the approval of amended terms of reference, it was agreed that it would not be placed in the box.2
26/06 Committee of Legal Advisers on Public International Law (CAHDI)
– Draft Specific Terms of reference for 2007-2008
– Abridged report of 32nd meeting (Athens, 13-14 September 2006)
8. The GR-J examined the draft terms of reference of CAHDI and the abridged report of its 32nd meeting. It agreed on the proposed draft decisions and decided to transmit the item to the Deputies for adoption of the decisions without further debate at their 981st meeting (29 November 2006).
9. The Chairman recalled that on that occasion, following a request made at the GR-J meeting on 1 June 2006, the Deputies were also to hold an exchange of views with the outgoing Chair of CAHDI, Ms Phani Dascalopoulou-Livada (Greece), and with its incoming Chair, Sir Michael Wood (United Kingdom).
27/06 International Criminal Court – 4th Multilateral Consultation Meeting (Athens, 14-15 September 2006) – Conclusions
10. The Group examined the conclusions of the 4th Multilateral Consultation Meeting on the implications for Council of Europe member states of the ratification of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and agreed to propose that the Deputies adopt the following decisions on that item:
1. Take note of the Conclusions of the 4th Multilateral Consultation Meeting on the implications for Council of Europe member states of the ratification of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) (Athens, 14-15 September 2006), as contained in document CM(2006)172 and decide to transmit them to the European Committee on Crime Problems (CDPC) and to the Committee of Legal Advisers on Public International Law (CAHDI), so that they can take them into account in their work;
2. Encourage those Council of Europe member states that have not yet done so to ratify, as soon as possible, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the Agreement on Privileges and Immunities of the International Criminal Court;
3. Encourage those Council of Europe member States that have concluded any international agreements which could run counter to the Rome Statute, to denounce them as soon as possible.
11. The GR-J agreed to transmit the item to the Deputies for adoption of the draft decisions without further debate (in the box) at their 981st meeting (29 November 2006).
28/06 Consultative Council of European Prosecutors (CCPE)
– Draft framework overall action plan
– Draft terms of reference for 2007-2008
– Abridged report of the 1st meeting (Moscow, 6 July 2006)
(CM(2006)181, CM(2006)181 add1 and CM(2006)181 add2, CM/Notes/981/10.3)
12. The Chairman recalled the background to the creation of the Consultative Council of European Prosecutors (CCPE) and gave a short introduction to the documents to be examined by the Group. He recalled inter alia that the draft terms of reference had been elaborated in accordance with the most recent instructions made by the Committee of Ministers on this subject.
13. One delegation referred to the importance it attached to this body which enabled legal professionals from the member states to meet and find new ways of cooperation. It considered that this may prove an efficient means of cooperation. The same delegation was also pleased to note that the draft action plan mentioned the functions of the prosecution services outside the criminal justice system.
14. Another delegation regretted the absence of financial information on the draft terms of reference.
15. The Secretariat (Mrs Killerby), explained that the Council of Europe would pay for one plenary meeting of the CCPE, but only for the interpretation, as the participants would be coming at their own expense, and for two Bureau meeting of 11 participants each. The figure for 2007 would be provided in the Notes on the agenda.
16. The Group agreed on the draft decisions and decided to transmit this item to the Deputies for adoption of the relevant decisions at their 981st meeting (29 November 2006) without further debate.
29/06 European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages – Report of the Committee of Experts in respect of Slovakia
(CM(2006)182, DD(2006)606, CM/Notes/981/10.5 rev)
17. The Group examined the first report of the Committee of Experts in respect of Slovakia contained in document CM(2006)182 and the draft Recommendations contained in document CM/Notes/981/10.5, in the light of some proposals for amendments made by the delegation of Slovakia (document DD(2006)606).
18. Following a discussion, it agreed provisionally to accept a couple of amendments to the draft recommendation and to recognise explicitly in the draft decisions the progress made by Slovakia in the protection of regional or minority languages. The revised draft Recommendation is contained in document CM/Notes/981/10.5 revised with the amendments agreed by the Group indicated in bold.
19. The item being on the agenda of the Deputies meeting on 29 November 2006, the Chairman of the GR-J gave delegations until 24 November 2006, end of business, to indicate if they could not accept the provisional agreement. If no comments were received, the item would be submitted to the Deputies for adoption without further debate.
20. The Group agreed that it would examine at a future meeting the more general issue raised during its discussion, concerning a possible procedure for obtaining information on the position of the Committee of Experts under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, when examining reports under the Charter.
Any other business
Joint OSCE-Council of Europe Expert Workshop on Preventing Terrorism: Fighting Incitement and Related Terrorist Activities (Vienna, 19-20 October 2006) – Summary
21. The Chairman recalled that the idea to hold a joint OSCE – Council of Europe (CoE) event to discuss the fight against incitement to terrorism and related activities, was a joint initiative of Germany and the Russian Federation, which also funded the event. The OSCE – CoE “Expert Workshop on Preventing Terrorism: Fighting Incitement and Related Terrorist Activities” was held in Vienna on 19-20 October 2006 and was the first major joint event of the two organisations in the field of counter-terrorism.
22. The Group took note of the report and of the fact that the item would be on the agenda of the Deputies’ 981st meeting (29 November 2006). It agreed to propose to the Deputies to transmit the report to the Committee of Experts on Terrorism (CODEXTER) to take it into account in its work.
Date of the next meeting
23. The next meeting will be held on Wednesday, 10 January 2007 at 10 a.m.
Note 1 This document has been classified restricted at the date of issue. Unless the Committee of Ministers decides otherwise, it will be declassified according to the rules set up in Resolution Res(2001)6 on access to Council of Europe documents.